Work Session: South Willamette Street Pilot Study Update

by Public Works Staff Contact: Chris Henry

The Eugene City Council will receive a progress update on the South Willamette Street Pilot Study. The South Willamette Street Pilot Study is evaluating a complete street design for an active transportation corridor (providing for walking, biking, transit, driving, and business access) that can be advanced as a capital improvement project for construction.

The South Willamette Street Pilot Study evaluates the transportation analysis of the South Willamette Street Improvement Plan, determines if there are any unintended consequences before any permanent changes are made, and provides a real experience of the street reconfiguration for people driving cars. At the conclusion of the pilot study, city staff will return to the City Council with additional information and data, along with a recommendation from the City Manager regarding whether to make the 3-lane configuration permanent.

The South Willamette Street Improvement Plan explored options for people to safely walk, bike, take the bus, or drive in an eight-block study area of Willamette Street from 24th Avenue to 32nd Avenue. The City and the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) have contracted with a consultant team of transportation engineers and urban design planners led by DKS Associates (with assistance from OTAK), which includes Cogito, locally based public involvement specialists. The goal of this study is to help South Willamette Street become a vibrant urban corridor accessible by bicycle, foot, car, and bus. Today, Willamette Street is heavily used to reach many popular destinations, yet it is uninviting to people walking, biking, riding transit, and driving. For years, many residents and business owners have shared complaints about the poor conditions on Willamette Street for walking and biking and the need to do something about it. The plan aims to support existing businesses and the commercial district’s vitality; create a balanced multi-modal transportation system; further City planning efforts to identify compact growth and redevelopment opportunities; and foster a well-informed and involved community supportive of the plan.

Public Process:
In August of 2012, the project team began by talking with stakeholders in small groups, including property and business owners, bicycle, pedestrian and transit advocates, and neighborhood leaders from Friendly, Crest, South Eugene, and Amazon neighborhood associations. Based on knowledge gained, in September two robust focus groups were organized (one based on business; and another based on users of cars, walking, bus, and bike) to hear more about people’s concerns, preferences and flexibilities towards identified corridor issues. In October, traffic count data was collected (when UO and LCC campuses were active) and an Existing Conditions Report was prepared. In November, over 150 participants attended the first Community Forum where they heard the results of recent traffic studies, explored alternatives, and the project team listened to community priorities for future improvements.

A second Community Forum was held in February 2013 to evaluate the alternatives that were prepared in response to earlier community conversations. Following the February Community Forum, the project team narrowed the number of alternatives down to three and performed more detailed transportation analysis.

The third, and final, Community Forum was held in June 2013. Participants were asked to help rank and refine the street design alternatives following a presentation of transportation analysis and group discussion. An online survey was also available to hear the preferences of those who were not able to attend the Community Forum.

Staff has provided updates on the process to the Eugene City Council on January 28 and June 19 of 2013, and presented the Draft South Willamette Street Improvement Plan on April 16, 2014. Staff has also met with the Eugene Planning Commission twice, on November 4, 2013 and again on April 7, 2014, to discuss the Draft South Willamette Street Improvement Plan and Economic Study respectively. The Eugene City Council held a public hearing on May 19, 2014 to receive public comment about the Draft South Willamette Street Improvement Plan. The Eugene City Council took action on May 27, 2014 to accept the South Willamette Street Improvement Plan and approved direct staff to implement a test of South Willamette Street Improvement Plan street design Alternative #3 (3-lanes with bike lanes) and report back with findings after a 12-month test period.

Consultant Project Team Recommendation:
On October 2, 2013, an executive summary of the Draft South Willamette Street Improvement Plan and consultant project team recommendation was shared in two meetings with stakeholder groups. The consultant team will provide details of the street design alternatives in their presentation.  The Eugene City Manager has endorsed a triple-bottom-line approach to sustainability and analysis for City projects and programs providing for consideration of people, the planet, and prosperity (or equity, environment, and economy). In development of the Draft Eugene Transportation System Plan (Draft TSP), the Transportation Community Resource Group (TCRG) extensively vetted a sustainability rating system based on a triple-bottom-line analysis. The South Willamette Street Improvement Plan adapted the TCRG sustainability work to develop screening criteria for qualitative assessment of the roadway alternatives. The results of the sustainability screening are included in the Draft South Willamette Street Improvement Plan and helped to inform the consultant project team recommendation. In weighing all the considerations identified in the Draft South Willamette Street Improvement Plan, the community feedback and technical analysis, the consultant project team finds that Alternative #3 (3-lanes with Bike Lanes) represents the best solution for South Willamette Street.

Live Streaming: Eugene City Council Work Session: January 23, 2017 / View Agenda & Meeting Materials